Friday, November 5, 2010

Biofertile Farms

Paul Taylor and the compost brewer in action

Go to the shed, not the shop. That was the motto for the Biofertile Farms workshop with Paul Taylor and Eugenio Gras. This was the second in the RegenAg series in September.

Throughout the three day workshop we had indoor, theoretical work and then two days outside actually making the compost tea and biofertiliser. An excellent way to do it.

Paul and Eugenio explained how all the agricultural inputs common today (like synthetic fertiliser) actually degrade soil health, and then the common suggested solution is more inputs (like herbicide, fungicide, insecticide) that further degrade soil health. Synthetic fertiliser is typically NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium), in a medium that is mainly salt so that it is soluble. But plants have two different types of roots: tap roots and feeder roots. Tap roots supply water to the plant and the fine feeder roots feed nutrients to the plant. However, the soluble synthetic fertiliser means that whenever the plant drinks, it takes up the nutrients and the salt. This is not what creates a healthy, robust plant. At the same time, soil microbes don’t like to live in the NPK environment.

Why are microbes important? They play a niche role with the plant’s feeder roots. They take nutrients that exist in the soil and exchange these with the plants for food for themselves. So if you want to access the nutrients that exist in the soil, create an environment that favours microbes.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people. And healthy soil means living soil with an abundance of microbes.

Paul Taylor made compost tea: brewing up liquid for a day that took a good number of microbes from compost and multiplied the microbes to an unbelievable extent. This is then sprayed onto the soil or as a foliar spray. It adds back in the microbes the environment needs to regain health. It was a simple process, but you do need a special, good quality air pump. An asset that would be a great one for a community group or a group of farmers.

Eugenio with the Bio-fertilser that is ready to ferment

Eugenio Gras made three concoctions that are good substitutes for the commercial chemical fertilisers. Very low cost, simple process that small campesinos to large farmers can make. These concoctions are all about getting off the roundabout of all the chemical fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides etc, etc. Instead, the concoctions are both cheap and improve soil health.

The three concoctions Eugenio made were:

  • · Bio-fertiliser
  • · Lime sulphur
  • · Soluble Phosphorous

It may seem a bit difficult, but as someone said: the hardest part in making the bio-fertiliser is following the cow around waiting for her to shit. Yes, you need the fresh stuff, then ferment it.

Other ingredients were animal bones, burnt then pulverised to dust. Also quite simple.

The last of the RegenAg series for this year (but hopefully not forever) is with Joel Salatin, of Food Inc fame. I can’t wait to hear how he runs his very diverse farm, focusing on selling directly to the local community.

We are the ones we have been waiting for - Hopi Indians

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic post! You made it all sound so simple that even I could follow what you were talking about ;-) This is really interesting stuff, I'll be eagerly awaiting the next RegenAg post update!